Politics

The Postal Service controversy, explained

The hearing is the first time that DeJoy, a fundraiser and ally appointed by President Donald Trump, will publicly answer questions about recent changes to the US Postal Service that have sparked public outcry.

What you need to know

Earlier this month, postal workers across the country sounded alarms over changes DeJoy had made to USPS since taking over in June. The changes included cutting overtime and limiting post office hours, which workers said were causing massive delivery delays. With millions of Americans expected to vote by mail this November due to the coronavirus, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began to worry this could impact the election.
While lawmakers began asking questions on changes, state officials voiced increasing concern following letters from the Postal Service to more than 40 states warning that ballots may not be delivered in time for the election. Around the same time, CNN obtained internal documents showing a reduction plan to remove nearly 700 high-volume mail sorters from postal facilities across the country.
And then came the images of iconic blue mailboxes being carted away on trucks. DeJoy and some Republicans defended the changes as necessary to combat the Postal Service’s dire financial situation, but Democrats weren’t buying it.
The series of changes, coupled with Trump’s battle against mail-in voting, has fueled concerns that the Trump administration is using the Postal Service to interfere with the election.

Where are we now?

Republicans were initially gearing up for a fight to defend DeJoy and his sweeping changes to USPS. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, accused Democrats of pushing a “conspiracy theory” about the rule changes, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, called it a “manufactured crisis.”
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who oversees the Senate committee that called DeJoy, even said he was giving DeJoy a platform to preempt next week’s hearing hosted by more “hostile” House Democrats.
But almost as soon as these Republicans laid the groundwork to go to the mat for DeJoy, the postmaster general caved to Democratic demands and suspended many of the controversial policy decisions until after the election. Still, much of the damage has already been done.

Why does it matter?

The hearings are playing out as states gear up for a historic election, which will feature more mail-in voting than any presidential election in US history. A CNN poll released on Tuesday found that 34% of registered voters said they prefer to vote by mail this year, which would be an increase from the 24% who voted by mail in the 2016 election, according to federal statistics.
Even as states rush to expand mail-in voting, there is a growing partisan divide over whether to use this method. In the CNN poll, 53% of supporters of Democratic nominee Joe Biden said they prefer to vote by mail, while 66% of Trump supporters said they prefer to vote in person.
These divisions have been on full display in recent days. Trump used social media to rail against mail-in voting and spread baseless allegations of widespread fraud. Democrats used their national convention to urge voters to request absentee ballots, and they praised mail-in voting as safe and secure.